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Healthy EcoFriendly Homes

Do you want to learn how to build a healthy eco-friendly home?

If you follow the best practices listed in this post, you’ll be well on your way to building your eco house that is visually appealing and has a low energy demand from the start. Let’s take a closer look at how to design and build low energy, eco-friendly houses with the latest Passivhaus design and sustainable design ideas.

1. Best Passivhaus Design and Construction Strategies

First of all, Passivhaus design is a standard for design and construction that aims to create a home that stays at a comfortable temperature with minimal energy use. Sunlight, human and appliance generated heat is used to dramatically decrease the need for additional space heating.

 

Achieving this standard depends largely on the climatic condition of the region on which it is built. In the UK, this typically involves:

  • ensuring very high levels of insulation;
  • the installation of extremely high-performance windows with insulated frames;
  • an airtight building fabric;
  • ‘thermal bridge free’ construction;
  • a mechanical ventilation system with highly efficient heat recovery;
  • and accurate design using the Passive House Planning Package (PHPP).

2. Passive Solar Design requirements for Sustainable Homes

The good news is you don’t have to commit to the Passivhaus standard to understand and utilise passive sources of energy. Most people are familiar with active solar energy generation – solar panels are a common sight up and down the UK and help to reduce our dependence on polluting fossil fuels.

Fewer people understand the necessity of passive solar design, which allows us to more directly harness the heat and light of the sun to reduce the energy demands of our homes. The truth is one of the most important elements of passive solar design is building orientation.

New buildings, wherever possible, should be orientated so that they face South (in the Northern Hemisphere). Windows should be placed predominantly on the south side of a building to maximise solar gain.  While, of course, the orientation of existing housing stock can rarely be changed, retrofitting measures may still include an increase of good quality, thermally-efficient triple glazing to the south side of the structure.

Seasonal shading should also be considered, however, to prevent overheating in summer. This can often be easily achieved by the use of such features as extended eaves and well-positioned blinds, which will reduce high-angle sun penetration without significantly disrupting levels of natural light.

3. Thermal Efficiency, Insulation and U Values for Eco-Friendly House Design 

The design of any building involves careful consideration not only of the external factors of a site but also, of course, of the materials of which it is made. Sustainable home design should first consider the carbon cost of materials, before going on to develop designs whereby those materials can be used to create homes that keep the heat in and require little energy to heat.

For example, eco-friendly materials such as wood from sustainable forestry, cob, and straw can all be used as alternatives to other, more carbon-costly materials in green buildings, including in those which aim for Passivhaus standards.

The U value of walls, roof and floors determines the rate at which heat escapes from a building. The lower the U value, the more slowly heat will dissipate. Passivhaus standards require U values to be no higher than 0.15 W/m2 for the walls, roof and floors and 0.80 W/m2 for an individual window, 0.85W/m2 for windows fully installed. In many cases, the U values should be far lower and these are considered to be the maximum acceptable U values. 

4. Clever Airtight Design for Eco Homes

Another important element in the design of energy-efficient houses is that they must have very good airtightness levels. An airtight building will further reduce heating demand and can be achieved by means of barriers and membranes placed in all the elements of the building.

In fact, in Passivhaus certification, the airtightness achieved by a structure is determined by an n50 test measurement. Air pressurisation tests are performed and the air escaping at 50 Pascals pressure should be fewer than 0.6 air changes per hour. Good design and implementation of barriers are essential to meet the rigorous standards.

5. Smart Natural Ventilation and Heat Recovery systems for Eco Houses

When implementing airtightness, it is also important to consider the ventilation needs of a structure. Natural ventilation allows for cooling of excess temperature and a healthy and comfortable airflow by means of cross ventilation, which can be achieved by understanding the way that air moves through a building.

The simple truth is, it is a requirement of Passivhaus certification that a building does not experience temperatures higher than 25 degrees Celsius for more than 10% of the year. In summer, natural ventilation can play a part in the maintenance of a low energy building, though in the winter, natural ventilation can result in undesirable heat loss.

Most importantly, in order to reduce heat losses further and yet maintain indoor air quality, airtight designs often incorporate mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR) into the designs. These systems work by extracting air from warm, wet rooms such as bathrooms and kitchens and passing it through a heat exchanger which passes this warmth to fresh air coming from outside. Fresh, pre-warmed air can then be released back into living areas of the home.

For Passivhaus certification, the heat recovery efficiency of a ventilation system must be equal to or greater than 75%. A fan power of less than or equal to 0.45 Wh/m3 is required and thought should also be carefully given to potential noise pollution and sound transfer between rooms.

6. Energy Use and Energy Efficiency of Eco Homes

Good insulation and solar orientation will help create a home that has a low heat-energy demand to start with, but homeowners must also take other measures to reduce energy usage. Choose appliances with A+++ rating and opt for highly efficient lighting (such as LED).

Here’s a big idea: It may also be worth looking to photovoltaics and other means of local energy generation to meet the low electricity requirements of the home. Active solar measures can be taken to reduce the energy load of heating water by pre-heating. Hot water heating systems and heat losses incurred through their implementation can be the Achilles heel of eco and Passivhaus design if not carefully considered at an early stage in the process.

7. Best Water, Drainage and Waste Management Practices for Eco Houses

Surprisingly enough, one of the major considerations for green home design should be the use and management of water. Many eco designs will incorporate water-saving measures such as low-flush plumbing and water recycling. Re-use of greywater and even the treatment of water waste in reed beds or other natural filtration systems is recommended where possible.

Alternatively, sustainable homes may also incorporate composting toilets and other alternative waste management options. If you are opting for Passivhaus standard, regulations mean that immense care must be taken over ingress and egress points for any pipes and the heat that can be lost as a result of the installation of certain water systems. Do you see where we’re going with this?

Waste management considerations also extend to the general household waste that will be generated within a home. A zero waste home should aim for as much of a reduction in generated waste as possible and allow for as much on-site recycling, composting and reclamation of waste materials as possible.

Waste should also be considered through the construction or renovation phase. In sustainable building and renovation, as much waste as possible should be kept from landfill. Of course, reclaimed materials should also be used where it is a good idea to do so. There may also be consideration of the eventual disposal of materials used at the end of the life of the building.

8. Suitability, Liveability and Adaptability for Eco Homes

A truly sustainable dwelling house is one which is ideally suited to its situation and to those living in it. I’ll walk you through the whole process…

First of all, in order to ensure that a home’s design is optimised to reduce energy consumption and ensure year-round comfort, a bioclimatic chart can be used to make sure that the designs are perfect for the climate conditions of the area. Such a chart can also be used to determine the measures that are best employed with a given house to add value and reduce its current energy use.

Designers may also employ vector diagrams to determine the sunlight strength and direction at a given time of day and time of year and to consider other elements such as wind direction and strength, the effects of which can be mitigated with good design.

Quite simply, liveability is also key to good sustainable home design. Passivhaus regulations take into account the comfort levels required for healthy living when it comes to heat and airflow. Light levels are also good in a home with passive solar design features, as much thought is given to how rooms within the home are to be used and how they will relate to one another.

Let me give you some examples:

Main living spaces such as living rooms and dining rooms will take advantage of the glazing to the south, while the less-glazed north side of a passive home will often be given over to rooms where light is less important, such as bathrooms, utility rooms and storage space.

Beyond that, adaptability is another factor in sustainable home design. Sustainable homes must be built to be adaptable to many different eventualities. This adaptability is especially crucial in the face of our warming planet and changing weather patterns that make forecasting much more difficult. By being largely self-contained and requiring little external power to operate successfully, a home with other sustainable and environmentally friendly features, can weather the storms, literally and metaphorically.

9. Relationship of an Eco-House to Its Environment

Those who design ethical and environmentally friendly housing must consider far more than just the energy use of each building. In a sustainable home design, it is important to remember that no building exists in a vacuum and it is important to consider any home in the context of its environment. It sounds simple. But it isn’t…

A truly zero-carbon home would facilitate the goal of a zero-carbon lifestyle. This could include such features as growing space for food; bicycle storage space and perhaps features such as workshops or home offices that make it easier to work flexibly from home. Even in a city or high-density area, provision can be made for food production through green roofs, vertical gardens and space for container growing. Such features can also be incorporated into insulation plans.

A successful sustainable design for a home with a garden will allow for easy transition between the two and a blurring of the boundaries between inside and out by incorporating features such as verandas and conservatories – both features which can be helpful in different ways for passive solar design.

How Help2Live Can Help You Build your Healthy Eco-Home

Healthy homea healthy living environment with organic building materials, high indoor air quality and a warm, stress-reducing atmosphere. It’s an ecological home that quite literally takes good care of the people within its walls.

With the public becoming more educated on the advantages of eco-building processes and materials, eco home designs and products are fast becoming essential elements of every new self-build.

The market is brimming with eco materials that promise to improve the energy efficiency and even the aesthetics, and durability of a building – from infrastructure systems to roofing. For example, triple, and even quad, glazed windows, recycled materials, ‘living roofs’ and sustainable drainage systems are all smart, durable, eco-friendly home additions.

Key parameters of healthy building: light, warmth, acoustics and even air quality. A home that is essentially both good to humans and to the environment, its overall ‘health’ can be determined by everything from its location, interior design, materials and indoor climate.

Key parameters

  • Layout and orientation are the keys
  • Feng shui principles to the planning and material pallet 
  • Simple build system
  • Natural and non-toxic materials
  • The best use of natural light
  • Natural adequate ventilation
  • Ensure that all building elements are compatible
  • Use a breathable vapour open system
  • Make the structure do the work
  • Take a whole-house approach to design
  • Externa Aesthetics match the context
  • Include the end-user in the design and build process
  • Life cycle value

We design minimum to zero-carbon houses, partly or fully self-sufficient, minimum to no waste, with green energy supply, smart water management system, built with healthy and natural materials from walls to finishes, with natural ventilation and healthy air exchange, breathable facade.  Moreover, we create an understanding of those who will one day call it home and how it will feel for them to live there. Therefore we take into consideration: feng shui layouts, propose ergonomic furniture, combine sustainable architecture with luxury and aesthetic and equip our houses with smart technologies and management systems. All of these are our core principles and our promise to you. 

With a multidisciplinary team composed of architects, planning consultants, engineers and interior designers, Help2Live is more than ready to help you build your sustainable house.

Take action by getting in touch with us today.